The Test series between England and Tonga continues on Saturday afternoon when the two proud nations head from St Helens to Huddersfield for the second game of the three and the first chance for the home side to wrap things up.
England held on to draw first blood last week but Tonga haven’t come all this way to go and lose the series at the earliest opportunity so we can expect a brave and strong performance from the pacific islanders at the very least here.
England will have been delighted to hold on and win the opening game of the series last week but I would imagine there was a fair bit that Shaun Wane won’t have been pleased with throughout the contest not just towards the end. Ultimately in sport the result is the overriding thing but Wane is very strong on performance levels and those taking care of the result and England put a lot of ball down in St Helens which won’t have impressed the coach.
To be fair to England, I think we are going to get natural improvement from both sides in this match. These series are becoming unique and very few in an England shirt will have played in one before so whenever something is new there will be improvement as a team warms to the task. Where England will want to make the most improvement is in the territory. They didn’t really get much pressure on Tonga with their end set kicks last week and they could do much better there.
I think we have to appreciate that there will be plenty of improvement to come from Tonga when you consider how far many of their players have flown and the fact that they never really had much of a warm up for the series. Cohesion and togetherness will be built from them over the course of the tour and I would expect them to perform stronger here, so the fact they only went down by four points last week should encourage them.
The one thing we saw from Tonga is they have plenty of physical strength through the middle and they have enough creativity in the backs to give England plenty of problems. You sense had they gone in front last week they might have run away with things but having had a hit up it would be very surprising if Tonga aren’t better for the run and we see a much stronger performance from them as they look to level the series and force a competitive decider next week.
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England have seen Dom Young and Morgan Knowles ruled out of the rest of the series and George Williams served the last of his ban here. Matty Ashton and Ben Currie have been called up with the former likely to play in place of the injured Tommy Makinson.
Kristian Wolff hasn’t given anything away in terms of his team for this second match of the series but there were no apparent injuries last week so the former St Helens coach could name an unchanged side and expect them to come on for the run.
We should be in for a cracking battle here, one which will be pretty bruising for the men involved and I think the six point start that Tonga are getting is a couple too many. We saw last week that they went right the way to the end and I am expecting a much stronger performance from them over the course of this match so that bodes well for them. Tonga were always going to improve through this series and I expect that to show out here.
The other reason to like Tonga in this match is because England are missing a couple of key players in Tommy Makinson and Morgan Knowles. I think there is a significant drop off at this level between Makinson and his replacement Matty Ashton and that is definitely an area where Tonga can target. I’m still not completely sold on Harry Smith as a kicker either so with the points potentially at a premium in this game that can help Tonga stay close too. I like Tonga +6 here.
Back Tonga (+6) to beat England for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with Betfred